Pass: The Standard Unix Password Manager

Pass is a simple password manager that strictly follows the Unix philosophy. It simply provides a directory structure of GPG encrypted files containing passwords and other information for each password. In this post, I will go over how to initialize Pass and different ways of interacting with it.


If you don’t have a GPG key, we need to generate one with:

gpg --full-generate-key

In order to use this key with Pass, run the command:

gpg --list-secret-keys --keyid-format LONG

This will show details of your key. Look for a line that looks something like this:

sec    rsa2048/0D2740AEE2FAEA2B 2021-01-07 [SC]

We need to copy the string after the line rsa2048/ until the date. With this, we can create our password store by running:

pass init "0d2740AEE2FAEA2B"

Now we have created our password store and can start adding passwords to it by doing:


For example, to add an entry for an email address we would enter:

pass insert email/gmail/

This will prompt us to enter a password and the contents will be saved into a GPG protected file with our key. The location of this file will be in ~/.password-store/email/gmail/

In order to decrypt this file and get its content, we can run:

pass email/gmail/

This will echo the output in the terminal.

Now we have a GPG encrypted file that contains your password. To add other information to this file such as a username and URI, we can run:

pass edit email/gmail/

Since this is just a GPG encrypted file, you are free to edit it to your liking, but the preferred organizational scheme used by the author of Pass looks like this:

URL: **
Secret Question 1: What is your childhood best friend's most bizarre superhero fantasy? Oh god, Amazon, it's too awful to say...
Phone Support PIN #: 84719


Pass-otp is an extension for pass that allows for two-factor authentication support. To add an OTP secret to our account, we can run:

pass otp append -a -s email/gmail/

You can also get the OTP secret from a QR code by running:

zbarimg -q --raw qrcode.png | pass otp insert totp-secret

Frontends to Pass

To interact with pass outside the terminal, there are a couple helpful extensions. Since I use dmenu there is a dmenu script that comes with Pass. You can run it with passmenu as long as you have dmenu installed.

There is also an Emacs package called password-store which allows you to copy passwords to your kill-ring from Emacs. I use both of these frontends depending on my workflow.


To learn more about Pass, you can check the official website at . They also have a list of other extensions and conversion tools to migrate from other password managers.